Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Allegheny West Conference, Rena Mae Walker, Bethel church

Look Who’s 100!

Story by Jeannette Johnson, Daughter

Rena Mae Walker, a Bethel member, celebrates her  100th birthday with Grace Brown, a family friend.Rena Mae Walker was born October 16, 1922, in Nashville, Tenn., when a gallon of gas was 25 cents, and a postal stamp was two cents. Walker studied at the Carter-Lawrence Elementary School and Pearl High School in Nashville. A member of the Hillcrest church in Nashville, she walked to church every Sabbath with her “Pop pa,” who felt that was the best mode of travel “on God’s Sabbath!” At church, she listened to Charles M. Kinny, the first African American ordained minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, preach the Word. She listened to Anna Knight, the first African American missionary, tell stories of her service in India.

Later, Walker met and married Jesse Lawrence, a union that lasted 53 years. In 1943, they moved to Akron, Ohio. Lawrence was a tire builder, and Walker was a domestic worker in private homes. Her strong Christian upbringing inspired her to serve as a licensed Bible instructor, introducing people to Christ in Akron and the surrounding cities.

For many years, Walker was the minister of music at the Bethel church (Akron). Choir rehearsals were often held in her home. Each week, she traveled many miles to pick up church members for choir and church, never asking for one penny.

Walker became a very special member of one of the families for whom she worked. They share that because of her deep devotion, beautiful personality, unwavering love and strong hugs, she worked for the family for more than 57 years. She still keeps in touch with them, even after her retirement at age 92.

Walker’s church honored her with a 100th birthday celebration late last year. More than 125 guests attended the gala affair. Organizers played music from her era and many individuals testified about how she has touched their lives.

At the event, a speaker read a proclamation from Daniel Horrigan, mayor of Akron, and a letter from Mike DeWine, governor of Ohio. One other important letter read was from an individual who had been incarcerated. Walker had written many uplifting letters to the person during their sentence, resulting in their decision to follow Christ.

Walker says she was so overwhelmed to see and feel the love of all those in attendance. “I will always remember these precious moments forever and ever!” she says.

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